Notre Dame finally got in the win column last weekend, and so did I. We'll go our separate ways in seeking win No. 2, but there's plenty of reason for optimism for the Fighting Irish heading into Saturday after a decisive win over Michigan State.
For one -- and forgive my Denny Green impression here -- but the Irish were who we thought they were, or at least could be. The run defense was top-notch, holding the Spartans to 29 yards on 23 carries. And the pass defense was much improved after a poor fourth quarter against Michigan, making the plays when it mattered most.
I'm looking at the offensive side of the ball for Notre Dame in this one, though. Pitt's pass defense is currently 119th out of 120 FBS teams. Michael Floyd is currently second in the nation in both catches and receiving yards. And his quarterback, Tommy Rees, was able to distribute the ball much better against MSU when the defense made things more difficult for Floyd in the early going.
Ball protection, once again, will have to be managed better. Regardless, I have a hard time seeing a close game this weekend. The Panthers are the worst opponent Notre Dame has faced so far, and the Irish seem to have found their footing after a rough start to 2011.
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Pitt 17